Do free speech and transparency actually make people happier?

I was browsing over at the Anchoress, and I found this fascinating article on free speech, political correctness and self-censorship.This is a huge issue for Christians, especially given what is happening in countries like Canada with these politically correct, multi-cultural censorship tribunals. In the post, the Anchoress urges us to be less worried about offending people.

In our politically correct age, where everyone is afraid of giving offense, being misconstrued-and -then-sued, or simply fearful of falling out-of-step with the trendoids, we almost never hear or read anything that is uncontrolled.

But “free speech” cannot be controlled or it is not “free” at all. And we in America have for too long engaged in self-censorship in favor of “niceness.”

Sometimes, you have to lose control and let the words fly, and if you cannot do that, you are not free.

People in my office know that my favorite way to end a conversation is by apologizing. I probably apologize about 15 times a day. Why do I have to do that? The people I work now with are the most tolerant people I have ever worked with. But I never know if a member of some left-wing special interest victim group is listening, and they may sue me if they don’t like what I say.

And what is the effect of this PC victim mentality? Fewer friendships between people who disagree. Shouldn’t these “victims” get used to the idea that some people disagree with them? People disagree with me all the time. My Christian beliefs were mocked by the media and secular teachers all the way from kindergarden to grad school. I didn’t complain! I wasn’t offended by people who disagreed with me.

The Anchoress also cites a study from Science Daily that argues that self-censorship makes people very unhappy. The study notes:

They figured that well-intentioned people are careful – sometimes hyper-careful – not to say the wrong thing about race in a mixed-race group. Furthermore, they thought that such effortful self-control might actually cause both unease and guarded behavior, which could in turn be misconstrued as racial prejudice.

…independent black observers found that the powerless volunteers were much more direct and authentic in conversation. And perhaps most striking, blacks saw the less inhibited whites as less prejudiced against blacks. In other words, relinquishing power over oneself appears to thwart over-thinking and “liberate” people for more authentic relationships.

As a person of color myself, I would just state that the joy of having authentic relationships with different people is real. I love intimacy. I love being myself. I love opening myself up to people. I love disagreements. If I cannot say what I really think about issues that matter, how am I supposed to be able to form authentic friendships with people with whom I disagree? Enforced segregation by worldview is very bad.

The Anchoress goes on in her post to list how free speech has been curtailed in a number of instances, even in the media, where there is supposed to be freedom of the press.

If we lose our freedom to speak out – to opine loudly, to mock, to question, even to demandthen we have lost everything.

And the truth is, we have already – thanks to political correctness and self-censorship – fallen into the mindset that our speech should be controlled, measured and unfree.

Her post made me recall a podcast that Dennis Prager did a while back on the issue of transparency. For those who don’t know, Prager has a regular “Happiness Hour” every week on his show. Prager makes the point that being transparent with your neighbors, and not censoring yourself, leads to happiness. There is also a partial transcript here. Here’s an excerpt:

You have to let out your secrets. Keeping yourself bottled is a recipe for misery, anger and pathology. I must have hit paydirt here, because all the lines lit up before I even gave the number.

Keeping stuff inside of you, and usually, we do it because we’re embarrassed by it. But you know, everybody has things that they are embarrassed by. The more that you keep hidden, the less chance of happiness you have. Why would one want to go through life hiding? It’s like wearing a veil over your psyche, and over your soul, or even a burka, completely covered. I’ve never followed it, because…I’ve never been hurt by opening up. I mean, it hasn’t always received the response that I wanted. It’s inevitable that it won’t.

The Anchoress ends by mentioning the movie “The Lives of Others“. I just watched it myself yesterday evening, because I saw that it was number ONE on National Review’s list of top conservative movies. And now I am going to make it clear to you. WATCH THIS MOVIE. This is the most amazing movie I have seen in a long time. I give it my highest recommendation!

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks so much for the link! New readers may want to take a look around since I cover a lot of different topics here, from free speech to economics to science to public policy!

Split decision on Texas evolution standards favors academic freedom

Over at the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News blog, they recently reported that the Texas State Board of Education reached a split decision on the state standards for teaching evolution.

Evolution News says this in their post:

Kudos to the New York Times for filing a story on the actions of the Texas State Board of Education that actually describes what happened last week. Unlike much of the rest of the newsmedia, the Times doesn’t tell only half of what happened or play up the hysterics. The story’s even-handed title is telling: “Split Outcome in Texas Battle on Teaching of Evolution.”

The NYT article they mentioned explains the compromise reached by the Texas State Board of Education.

First, the bad news:

…the board voted to drop a 20-year-old mandate that science teachers explore with their students the “strengths and weaknesses” of all theories.

But the board also passed some good amendments, among them this one:

…one that would compel science teachers to instruct students about aspects of the fossil record that do not neatly fit with the idea of species’ gradually changing over time, like the relatively sudden appearance of some species and the fact that others seem to remain unchanged for millions of years.

Let me explain why this is a big win for ID. One of my previous employers was a major academic publishing company. By major, I mean my alma mater’s campus library featured academic publication databases that I helped to code. In this company, it was well known that California and Texas were the two most important states, because their textbook standards set the guidelines for the other states.

The NYT article explains:

Whatever the 15-member board decides then will have consequences far beyond Texas, since the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks in the nation. The new standards will be in place for the next decade, starting in 2010, and will influence the writing of the next generation of biology texts, which the state will order this summer.

John G. West of the Discovery Institute evaluates the board’s decision as positive:

“They did something truly remarkable today,” John G. West of the Discovery Institute, a group that questions Darwinism, said in a statement. “They voted to require students to analyze and evaluate some of the most important and controversial aspects of modern evolutionary theory.”

I actually have podcasts for you of the testimonies of pro-ID scholars given to the Texas Board. If you want to learn how scientists argue for academic freedom on issues of origins, you should listen to these three 15-minute podcasts.

  1. My favorite ID scholar Stepen C. Meyer testified on the Cambrian explosion and the fossil record, (podcast, article). Meyer holds a Ph.D in the Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University. I once saw him explain biological information using colorful lock-blocks, live. (He stole them from his children). I often draw it up for my co-workers on a white board, just like he does!
  2. Microbiologist Ralph Seelke testified about how his lab research that shows clear limits on how far bacteria can evolve, (podcast, article). Seelke holds a Ph.D in Microbiology from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. He is a Professor in the Department of Biology and Earth Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
  3. Biochemist Charles Garner testified on the chirality problem in chemical evolution, (podcast, article). He also discussed the importance of not glossing over the weaknesses of scientific theories. Garner holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from University of Colorado, Boulder. Garner is now a Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Baylor University.

For those looking for a definition of what intelligent design is, look here. I highly recommend the work of Canadian journalist Denyse O’Leary, who is probably the foremost expert on why there is an ID controversy. Her main blog on ID is called Post-Darwinist.

As a supporter of academic freedom, I sent a donation to the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture yesterday. The CSC is currently offering a free book with donations received before February 28th, 2009. For my annual donation, I chose Stephen C. Meyer’s forthcoming book “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design“.

On another note, I am also excited about Jay Richards’ forthcoming book, “Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem“. Jay did a great lecture on basic economics for Christians and another great lecture on what Christians should think about global warming. Maybe his employer, the Acton Institute, will give me a free book if I send them a donation?

UPDATE: Casey Luskin just posted audio of Stephen C. Meyer responding to questions after is presentation at the hearing.

Canadian-raised comedian explains what’s wrong with socialized medicine

I don’t know what it is about Canadians, but they sure have talented comedians. I loved my recent post on health care, in which I cite research and podcasts from practically every think tank out there. So many wonderful facts, figures and evidences! But I know that some of my readers want to learn about health care by laughing and having “fun”. Ick!

But, guess what? I’ve found the perfect video clip for you. By a guy who grew up with in the most progressive city in Canada – Montreal. If this doesn’t cure you of supporting socialized medicine, nothing will! If you want more of his videos, his web site is here. He has videos on global warming, abortion, terrorism, the auto bailout and other interesting topics.

By the way, have you guys heard of this guy Zo? He is awesome! This particular video clip has over 800,000 views. He covers health care, economics, energy and foreign policy. Can this guy talk! He needs to have his own radio show. Zo has a ton of videos. His web site is here.

Ezra Levant: “the best news on the freedom of speech front in a year!”

Ezra Levant, champion of free speech
Ezra Levant, champion of free speech

Alberta is the most conservative province in Canada, and the most free. It is therefore shocking that they have one of the worst Human Rights Commissions in the country, just behind British Columbia and Ontario. But it looks like there may finally be hope for free speech in Alberta, at least, as Ezra reports here.

Ezra begins by recounting his own brush with the Alberta Human Rights commission.

Fifteen government bureaucrats and lawyers investigated me for 900 days, leaving me with $100,000 in legal bills — and the taxpayers of Alberta out five times that — before the charges were dropped.

He notes how the phony right to not be offended now trumps real civil rights, like freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But there is hope. Lindsay Blackett, the provincial Cabinet minister in charge of the Alberta HRC, was interviewed by Rick Bell in the Calgary Sun. And he is not happy about their little kangaroo court.

Here is my favorite quote from the interview:

“People shouldn’t feel they can’t come to Canada, like a university professor who talks about a subject matter and then there are reprisals,” says the cabinet minister.

“They should have the ability to say what they say and somebody should have their ability to have the counter argument. That is what a free and open society does. Let’s get away from trying to mediate everybody’s feelings.”

And this one:

Lindsay talks about being turned down by a girl at a school dance with all his pals watching.

“You feel about two inches tall. I guess maybe I should have taken her to the Human Rights Commission because I had hurt feelings. Where does it end?”

Levant concludes that the interview is “the best news on the freedom of speech front in a year”. We can only hope that Blackett acts on his convictions. Fire. Them. All.

UPDATE: If you want to see Ezra Levant in action against leftist opponents of free speech, click here.

William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel and Christopher Hitchens panel discussion

UPDATE: Audio and video from a  panel discussion with Hitchens, Craig, etc. is linked here.

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the debate is here.

This just in… William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Doug Wilson, Jim Denison and Christopher Hitchens will be participating in a panel discussion at the Dallas Convention Center. The event is being organized by Christianity Today and is being held on Saturday, March 21, 2009 from 1:00 – 3:00 PM.

The event is on the web here.

The New Atheists usually make two charges against Christianity: (1) that it is untrue and (2) that it is harmful. A panel of apologetics experts respond to an atheist critic with evidence from Scripture, science, and history about why the faith is both reasonable and good for the world.

Moderator: Stan Guthrie, Christianity Today

  • Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, The Case for a Creator (Zondervan)
  • William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Crossway)
  • Douglas Wilson, Is Christianity Good for the World? (Canon Press)
  • Christopher Hitchens, Is Christianity Good for the World? (Canon Press) and God Is Not Great (Twelve Books)
  • Jim Denison, Wrestling with God (Tyndale)

More information about the 2009 Christian Book Expo is here.

Video from Hitchens’ last debate with Dinesh D’Souza, is here.

There is one thing you really have to admire about Christopher Hitchens, in addition to his sound views on the war on terror. And that is that he has never run from a debate with anybody. It seems like it took forever to get Richard Dawkins to face-off against John Lennox, but Hitchens has no fear. He’s debated some pretty good Christian scholars, like Frank Turek (video) and Douglas Wilson (transcript).

You have to admire the man, and I hope that he does a good job of presenting his views and that our side, and the audience, is courteous and appreciative. This man has courage.

Incidentally, the Dawkins-Lennox debate is here, if you haven’t seen it. It’s a hoot, but it’s not my preferred debate format. I don’t know of any other debates with the other new atheists… if anyone has any links, post it in the comments.

UPDATE: I analyze Hitchens’ case against God here, from his debate against Frank Turek.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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